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But what about the birds many of us keep as pets? Where do budgies, cockatiels, finches and canaries fall on the smart scale?
We asked Toronto-based veterinarian Dr. Evan Mavromatis of the Links Road Animal Clinic, a practice specialising in birds, exotics and small pets, to tell us who's at the top of the class when it comes to pet birds. â€¨â€¨
Smart pet birds:
1. African Grey Parrot
"This is the genius of the bird world," says Dr. Mavromatis. "And like many geniuses, greys can be socially awkward, nervous and eccentric. I see a lot of behavioural problems with them because they are so incredibly intelligent -- on par with a five- or six-year-old child!"
Greys are famous for their ability to make sentences and speak in context. In other words, they are not just parroting what they hear, but they understand what they are saying. They can ask for things and tell their owners how they feel.
2. Macaws and Cockatoos
"With these birds, the bigger they are, the smarter they are," explains Dr. Mavromatis. "But, as with all birds, intelligence is an individual thing. And of course, personality plays a huge role too. Macaws are very affectionate but can be kind of pushy and cockatoos are amazingly dexterous and love to take things apart -- like their cages. I've seen a cockatoo disassemble the cage it was in and just walk away!" he says.
These birds are also very loud, demanding, social and seriously long-lived -- up to 50 to 70 years.
Page 1 of 2 -- Check out three other intelligent pet birds on page 2
3. Budgerigar (budgies)
Make no mistake, these common pet birds are tiny parrots and they're just as clever. "Budgies are like little sponges for information," says Dr. Mavromatis. "They're great talkers, very curious and are about as intelligent as a two-year-old child. What's sad is, since they cost only a few bucks at a pet shop, they don't get the respect they deserve."
And like all parrots -- all birds, really -- budgies love music and, like the famous Frosty the Cockatoo, are likely to break out in dance!
4. Conures, Green Amazons, Parakeets, Quakers, Lovebirds
Whether from Australia, Africa or the Amazon, these smaller parrots are also good talkers and according to Dr. Mavromatis, can excel at problem solving.
"I've seen a green-cheeked conure learn how to use his feet and beak to pull up a string with a peanut tied to the bottom," he says. "They love figuring things out." And it's true, lovebirds don't like being alone. All birds need companionship, but especially these little ones.
5. Canaries, Finches and Bantam Chickens
Each of these pet birds have their own talents and quirky personalities. Male canaries are treasured for their beautiful song, finches for their cuteness and funny, mechanical toy chirping, and, yes, some folks even keep tiny bantam silkies and other chickens as pets. They are full of hilarious personality and hey, you can even buy chicken diapers!
Ultimately, birds are only as intelligent as their surroundings allow. If Einstein had never left his room and had no mental stimulation, chances are he wouldn't have been, well, Einstein.
To bring out the best in any bird, give them freedom, toys, interaction, companionship and challenges -- and think twice before you think of someone as a birdbrain again!
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